At least for a few days, two former regional premiers, both of the Popular Party (PP) will be in the defendant's dock in courts of law. Francisco Camps now begins his fifth week on trial for the affair of the suits allegedly given him by the Gürtel corruption network, the principal ramifications of which flourished in the Valencia regional government that he presided from 2003 to 2011, as well as in the Madrid region. And on Monday, in the High Court of Palma de Mallorca, there began the first of the trials against the former Balearic Islands regional premier Jaume Matas for the so-called Palma Arena case, a many-branched tree which has given rise to 25 separate judicial proceedings, one of which affects the King's son-in-law and husband of the Infanta Cristina, Iñaki Urdangarin, and other executives of the Instituto Nóos, who the prosecution says irregularly obtained lucrative public contracts from the regional governments headed by the two PP premiers.
No doubt the simultaneity of the two trials is mere coincidence. Yet it contains an undeniable symbolic value of a political nature. Quite apart from the personal profiles of the two protagonists, the Palma Arena and Gürtel cases are perhaps the most outstanding examples of political corruption in recent years, in the Spain of the real estate bubble, in which land rezoning and public contracts were often the instruments of crime; designed, apart from corrupting the public administrations, for stealing the taxpayer's money.
The Balearic regional government, together with the Valencia one, has perhaps been the most infested with corruption cases in this period. For some time both men enjoyed the support of Mariano Rajoy, until they became an obstacle in his path to the prime ministerial mansion. This recalls another of the most notorious corruption scandals in the recent history of the Balearic Islands - the Sóller and Calvià cases - centered on Antón Cañellas, who was obliged to resign as premier by José María Aznar, but only when the latter also feared that the scandal threatened his chances of attaining the prime minister's office.
The trial that began on Monday against Matas concerns one of the several aspects of the polifacetic Palma Arena case, this being the name of the velodrome where the gap between the public contract bid and the final cost - from 43 million to 110 million euros - aroused every suspicion of embezzlement and illicit enrichment on the part of the Balearic premier. What is concretely on trial is the dispensation of almost half a million euros to the journalist who wrote speeches for Matas, and then extolled him in his own and other media, such as the daily El Mundo.
There is another coincidence: that in spite of their attacks on judges and prosecutors, and their attempt to have the voters absolve them of their wrongdoing, the protagonists of these corruption cases have finally had to face trial; and, if they are found guilty, will have to pay their debts to society and the state.